On February 17th, Boston parents, teachers, and students participated in nationwide walk-ins to #ReclaimOurSchools. Organized by the Alliance to Reclaim our Schools, these walk-ins were a show of community support for public schools and a demand for fully funded, high-quality, and equitable education. 40,000 people participated in the walk-ins across the country, which took place in over 30 cities. Boston schools were on break, but there was still great turnout at the statehouse as hundreds rallied to protest proposed school budget cuts and raising the charter cap. Schools being closed gave Boston Public Schools (BPS) students an opportunity to participate, and they spoke eloquently about the problems facing their schools alongside their teachers and representatives from the Massachusetts Educational Justice Alliance (MEJA), who organized the event.
The protest started at Boston’s City Hall, where organizers spoke about their support for students and fears for their schools under the proposed cuts. A frequent concern expressed by both students and teachers was a concern that if the cuts went through, their schools would be forced to discontinue valuable electives and arts classes. As one BPS student said: “We’re going to lose computer science, we’re going to lose arts classes, just because of a budget cut.”
Speakers also emphasized their support for students, especially students who might face additional challenges in schools and thus require even more specialized support. An organizer from MEJA, Marlena Rose, mentioned some of the numerous outside forces that could affect student success, such as students who had undocumented family members. Other speakers, like Rev. William Dickerson, drew attention to the school-to-prison pipeline and the need to invest in education, not incarceration. After MEJA delivered a petition signed by hundreds to City Hall, the entire protest marched to the State House. Although neither Mayor Marty Walsh nor Governor Charlie Baker met with them, they continued to protest and speak about the damaging effects these proposed cuts would have on Boston public schools.